3 min

The Non-Traditional Path

I took the SAT four times. 

Each time was a desperate attempt to score higher because I needed a good score to get into a good college. I hoped my athleticism and extracurricular activities would give me an edge, but I still needed a respectable SAT score.

It was the only way. 

But no matter how many times I took the test, my score barely limped forward. I was a horrible test-taker and just an okay student. In 9th grade my mom placed me in Honors classes - because my older brother and sister were in honors classes and breezed through them.

I did not. 

After one week I had to drop all my classes except one - English. It was the only Honors class where I wasn’t looking around at everyone like, “Are you guys all following this?? Because I’m lost.” 

So I was bewildered when one of the schools I applied to invited me into their Honors Program.

Mom had taken it upon herself to send the college essay I’d written to all the schools I applied to, regardless of whether they required an essay or not. Monmouth University did not require an essay. They pointedly let me know that neither my GPA nor my SAT score were high enough for their Honors Program. But they loved my essay. 

I had found another way in without following the traditional path.

That's not to say don't I love rules. I’m such a rule follower. If you say I can’t make Varsity unless I run two miles under 16 minutes I will train all summer to get my time down. Nothing will give me more satisfaction than crossing the finish line at 15:40. 

But sometimes rules are just guidelines to create expectations. If there’s a rule that keeps you from achieving a desired goal you have to get creative. 

Online writer and teacher David Perell has been deviating from the traditional path since high school when he graduated with a 2.8 GPA. He was determined to get into a good college and knew his only way in was through golf. Elon University was at the top of his short list of schools, so he and his Dad flew across the country for a meeting with the coach:

“I knock on the door of the golf office, it's like 5pm, and he's not there. ... So I go, ‘Dad, we are going to Google Maps all the golf courses nearby and we're gonna go one-by-one to every single golf course.’ First golf course, they're not there. Second golf course, not there. Third golf course, we're driving up and I see these crimson bags and I'm like, ‘Dad, stop the car, that's Elon.’ ... I run out onto the golf course, like sneaking onto private property, and I'm like, ‘My name is David, I had a meeting with [the coach] and I need to talk to him.’ So they call him. He goes, ‘Oh I totally forgot, meet me there at 7pm.’ ... I get a call three weeks later, ‘Hey, you're in.’”

David got creative. He persisted. He put in extra effort. And it earned him the college admission he wanted. 

I accepted admittance to the Honors Program at Monmouth. Rather than feel lost and out of my league like I did in high school, I felt supported and encouraged. I finally felt like I belonged somewhere, and that new confidence propelled me forward to graduate with a 3.8 GPA. 

I thought my only way into a good college was through a combination of grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities. That’s what all my teachers told me. But my way in was through writing. 

Find your own way in.